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Death for Hawara, Balwant Singh 
Three others jailed for life
Vishal Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 31
Ending three days of animated suspense over the quantum of sentence to be given to the six convicts in the Beant Singh assassination case, the special court today ordered capital punishment for Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh. Lakhwinder Singh, Gurmit Singh and Shamsher Singh were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Naseeb Singh, held guilty under the Explosives Substances Act only, was sentenced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs 10,000. He was released today at 3.40 pm after his lawyers deposited the fine. He had already undergone imprisonment for 11 years during the period of the trial.

Mediapersons, convicts’ kin and Sikh radicals waited with bated breath outside the Burail Jail premises even as passions ran high and Khalsa slogans rent the air.

In the backdrop of the sloganeering crowd, CBI counsel R.K. Handa briefed the mediapersons about the sentence, saying: “Special Judge R.K. Sondhi has awarded death penalty to Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh while the three convicts, Lakhwinder Singh, Gurmit Singh and Shamsher Singh, have been awarded life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000 each has been imposed upon them. Naseeb Singh has been sentenced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs 10,000.”

A battery of defence lawyers, comprising A.S. Chahal, T.S. Sudan, S.S. Bawa, Arvind Thakur, came out of the premises raising slogans. They told the mediapersons that the scene inside the courtroom was quiet but tense.

“We will explore all legal options and take the battle to the highest level. We must inform you that Balwant had refused to go in for appeal,” they told mediapersons.

Meanwhile, the Khalsa Action Committee announced that special functions would be held at the Golden Temple and the convicts’ native places on August 4. Also, Sikhs should shut down their business establishments on the day to protest against the order.

Earlier, before the verdict was delivered, the convicts’ kin gave a hot chase to Maninderjit Singh Bitta and hurled choicest abuses in chaste Punjabi on him, as they threw stones at his vehicle. Bitta was whisked away by his security men.

The four-volume order, running into 1,022 pages, has divided the convicts into two categories: First category and second category. The categorisation was done keeping in view the convicts’ role in planning and execution of the assassination.

“Firstly, those who formed the hardcore nucleus which took the decision to assassinate Beant Singh and masterminded and coordinated it and secondly, those who joined the conspiracy by inducement or instigation etc., whether through indoctrination or otherwise,” reads the order.

Jagtar and Balwant were accordingly put in the first category while Lakhwinder, Gurmit and Shamsher formed the second category.

Deliberating upon the classification of convicts and the need to do so, the order further states that there were more aggravating circumstances against the accused than the mitigating circumstances. The convicts deserved no leniency. It has referred to the apex court judgment in State of Tamil Nadu Vs Nalini’s case.

Special comments have been made on Balwant who had confessed to his crime. It has been mentioned that though Balwant had fairly and honestly confessed to the crime, the justification put forward by him “is found to be far from the truth of the alleged justification”. Ironically, defence lawyers, too, blamed Balwant for killing their case by confessing to his crime.

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’95 Story
It was a toss-up
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 31
You may dismiss it as just another script fit for a thriller. For deciding who will become the human bomb for eliminating the then Chief Minister, Beant Singh, two co-conspirators in the case flip a coin. Dilawar Singh wins the fatal toss, but agrees to lose his life for succeeding in his designs.

Before carrying out the operation successfully at Punjab Civil Secretariat on August 31, 1995, he asks co-conspirator Balwant Singh to confess his hand in the operation, which he does less than four years after the assassination.

The almost “perfectly planned” operation turns sour just because two cops, soon after the explosion, get the urge to smoke a cigarette away from the public glare; and in the process get into an open Ambassador car, the one used by the assassins for carrying out the operation.

Even before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) gets into full motion, the then Director General of Police, K.P.S. Gill, comes up with the human bomb theory.

He is criticised for reaching a hasty conclusion, but his instant logic is not so complicated. If there is no crater, the explosion took place several feet above the ground.

So many of the facts may sound too filmi, but then reality is sometimes stranger than fiction. Talk to the investigators, the witnesses and even the assassins; and they tell you strange tales of intrigue, conspiracy and coincidences, which even a master of macabre could not weaved so dexterously. Some of the stories are not a part of the court record, but have been gathered during the trial covered over a period spanning three years.

CBI’s special public prosecutor R.K. Handa asserts Dilawar Singh was not to act as the human bomb. But still took the task in his hands, literally. And what started with the toss ended with the discovery of the car in the parking lot.

The sources in the police say scared of top functionaries seeing them smoking away their tensions, two cops find an open car and get into it for a puff. Inside, they discover the interiors are grey, while the exterior is white. Curious, they open the glove compartment and find bits of evidences inside.

Later, they come to know that the car was used to reach the spot. While the assassins managed to get the vehicle painted “Franko White” for matching the colour of government-owned cars to make access to the secretariat easy, the moisture in the air due to the rains prevented them from getting the car touched from inside.

Soon after the car’s discovery, the investigators launch a massive search for the number plate painter. The lines drawn with thread dipped in blue (neel) for aligning the letters and digits on the plate tell them that it has been painted freshly. The search takes them to Mohali as the painting style is that of the artists there.

In the meantime, car painter Surinder Sharma sees the snaps of the vehicle flashed in allnewspapers. Apprehensive of the police, he is still contemplating future course of action when a cop arrives for the replacement of his bike’s clutch wire. His presence makes him jittery. Thinking that the cops have found out all about it, he tells everything.

During the trial, Balwant Singh has a change of heart. He actually hands over letters to the court in June, 1998, confessing his hand in the crime. He apologises for the death of the innocents, but says he has no regret about the Chief Minister’s assassination.

He subsequently swears religion has nothing to do with militancy in the state and it’s all because of vested interests of a few people. But why the confession? Well, his explanation is simple. “I owe it to my friend”.

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